Where Is Burma On The Map

Bo Bo took me to a restaurant and announced, ‘Lunch’. I did as I was told even though it was only 11.15 am. The people at the eating place were very nice. In an outdoor open-sided pavilion I ordered local red curry. Boy it was hot. I am used to hot and usually it makes my nose run a bit, but this made my eyes water until tears ran down my face. Still, it’s good for sterilising the gut and the nasal passages. For five dollars I got the curry and rice and a plate of peanuts, and some funny looking sweet balls, two bananas and a lime juice were thrown in as well.

Then it was back to my air-con room to recover, passing groups of children walking to school after their lunch break. Girls and boys both wore uniforms of white blouses and dark-green longiis.

I rested until evening; it’s not advisable to venture out here during the afternoon unless you want heat stroke. Towards sunset I met Madonna and B B again to go temple visiting and watch the sunset from the Shwesandaw Paya, a pyramid-style pagoda whose name means Golden Holy Hair. It has 360 degree views from its five levels and the circular top platform is the most popular place from which to view sunsets.

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We jogged a long way on dirt tracks, past brown brick stupas and pagodas sitting among scrubby growth. Then we came to the main road that goes through the village of Myinkaba. Once a large bus passed close to us but Madonna was bomb-proof and didn’t flinch. I flinched for her.

The Shwesandaw Paya was a horror of hawkers. They descended on me like a plague of smiling locusts, entreating me to buy as I climbed out of the sanctuary of the cart. I said, ‘No thank you’ repeatedly, but I did promise to look at one appealing young girl’s longiis on my way back in order to get rid of her. No such luck. She was waiting at the bottom of the steps when I came down and led me away to her longiis arrayed on a wall. I could not escape, so I bought one at the inflated price of seven dollars. Hard bargaining had got it down from twelve. In Yangon it would have been four at the market, and probably two for a local. The girl’s cheeks were smeared with the two round patches of thanka that many women adopt. It is powdered sandalwood and is good for your skin, but I didn’t understand why it is acceptable to wear it all day. She said she loved my lipstick.

The Shwesandaw is one temple you are allowed to climb in Bagan not all are anymore, unlike my other visit when we not only almost had the place to ourselves but went wherever we pleased. Then only a few children pestered us, asking for pens.

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